41. John Winters (39) and Wayne Baskin (39)
Superhero co-founders John Winters and Wayne Baskin walked away from their $1.5 billion merger with crypto trading platform Swyftx late last year in a dramatic change in direction for the trading platform amid upheaval in the crypto sector.
The founders were back in control of their business after dissolving the six-month partnership, citing the tighter crypto regulatory environment that stemmed from the collapse of FTX last year.
The overarching goal of the merger was to create a singular platform for Australians to manage their investments, from equities, superannuation and digital currencies.
“In December 2022, with the current regulatory environment and volatility in the crypto markets, it became clear that the initial vision was unlikely to materialise in the foreseeable future,” Winters, the Superhero CEO, tells Business News Australia.
The demerger brought Superhero back full circle to its original ownership structure, which includes founding investors Regal, Wilson Asset Management and Ophir, as well as AfterPay co-founder Nick Molnar and Zip Co (ASX: ZIP) co-founder Larry Diamond.
Superhero is an investment and superannuation platform that gained a popular following due to its low-cost brokerage fees. Established in 2018 by Winters and Baskin, Superhero launched to the market in 2020 and has grown from 10,000 investors to more than 220,000 today – up 70,000 from a year ago.
Its flagship superannuation offering, Superhero Super, was launched in 2021 giving Australians the ability to invest their superannuation in over 300 ASX listed stocks and ETFs without an SMSF.
The platform’s $5 flat trading fee for Australian shares and zero commission for US stocks drew comparisons with US share platform Robinhood Markets Inc which offers commission-free trades.
Superhero wrapped up 2022 on a high with revenue growing 286 per cent, and Winters expecting further growth in 2023.
“Our plans to launch in New Zealand were paused in 2022, but we’re hoping to launch in the first half of the year,” he says. “Added focus includes strategic partnerships with major financial institutions to further support Australians with growing their wealth through investing.”
Superhero experienced a 23 per cent increase in trade volumes between 2021 and 2022 and, with that, the company is planning to refine its product offering through additional features for the platform.
“Our retail superannuation fund, Superhero Super, is also now a year and a half old and, in 2023, we intend on scaling and optimising the product to support even more Australians in growing and taking greater control of their superannuation,” says Winters.
“We’re still hiring for key roles in the team and growth from a people perspective is also a key goal for the year.”
42. Kelly Weideman (35)
Over the last seven years, Kelly Weideman and Ed Zouroudis have worked in tandem to scale an innovative health monitoring machine that is challenging traditional methods of assessing fitness levels.
To date, EVOLT’s technology has provided more than 2.5 million health reports, giving users holistic insight into their body composition – measuring more than 40 metrics including lean muscle mass, subcutaneous fat, visceral fat and water retention.
With a presence in 33 countries, EVOLT’s client base includes global giants Anytime Fitness, HCF, World Gym and Virgin Active. The company has managed to grow throughout COVID despite the fact gyms closed down at the height of the pandemic.
While most (95 per cent) of revenue comes from a business-to-business (B2B) stream, EVOLT has started offering meal plans and supplement solutions in a bid to reach consumers directly.
“Over the last few years we’ve realised there are so many other industries the scanner can benefit, like medical, allied health and corporate wellness companies,” says Weideman, adding that the technology's nutritional and supplement recommendations are also proving popular with clients.
“We’ve seen lots of growth in different verticals and picking up huge clients, not only in Australia but all over the world, which has forced us to grow quickly and set up business in new countries and new regions at lightning speed.”
Four months ago EVOLT secured $12 million in a raise led by Bell Potter and backed by Regal Funds Management (ASX: RF1), Washington H. Soul Pattinson (ASX: SOL), Smarter Capital, as well as other high net worth individuals.
The next frontier? Expanding into untapped markets and listing on the ASX.
“Anytime Fitness has 1,000 clubs in Japan. They have mandated that every club will need an EVOLT machine. So, it's easy to go into a market where we know we've got an inroad into an existing client’s business,” Zouroudis explains.
“We were going to list September  but with the current climate we thought we'll just wait - there's no real rush because we are quite sound from a funding perspective.”
43. Ellie Vaisman (29) and Giovanni Pino (31)
Behind some of Australia’s emerging e-commerce brands is Giovanni Pino and Ellie Vaisman’s Sourci, an ingenious development consultancy bringing the dreams of would-be entrepreneurs to life.
Founded in 2018, Sourci simplifies the product design, procurement, manufacturing and supply chain processes for their diverse customer base that includes self-tanning brand Tanzee, luxury jewellers Tiffany & Co. and skincare giant Frank Body, all supported by Sourci's team of approximately 40 people.
Influencers are also becoming a gold mine for Sourci, with the likes of Australian basketball superstar Sara Blicavs, AFL powerhouses Jack Redden and Xavier Ellis, and model, presenter and entrepreneur Tess Shanahan all relying on the company’s expertise to turn their ideas into reality.
Their approach to connecting business owners with manufacturers has helped Sourci become one of the go-to companies for those with a good idea. There’s not much the company won’t touch either; Sourci has helped develop creations ranging from garments to skincare, sunglasses to 35mm cameras, and even sex toys.
As such, Sourci claims to have created more than $150 million worth of retail value for its customers over the past 12 months.
The founders have also branched out into supplying the Australian construction sector with high-quality materials more recently, founding a spin-off company called Procon with co-founder Sam McGuinness.
That business is aiming to ease supply chain pressures for smaller builders who would otherwise have to compete with larger players in the industry to procure building materials such as premium timber flooring, natural stone tiles and joinery for window systems and kitchens.
44. Ben Lipschitz (38)
If Ben Lipschitz’s vision with his fellow co-founders to create an “Amazon of the foodservice industry” becomes a reality, FoodByUs would make for a digestible case study on the meaning of disruptive innovation.
As a “one-stop procurement shop” software solution for hospitality venues to source their food and alcohol, the company has helped put laborious ordering processes on the chopping block, serving up a well-needed share plate of efficiency gains for a hard-hit sector.
“We exist to help small-medium sized hospitality businesses streamline their procurement processes,” says Lipschitz.
“Procurement time and costs are one third of a venue’s expenses yet are often where the profit is made (or lost). In the past few years alone, we have helped independent restaurants and cafes save close to $16 million in costs and 2,643,750 hours in time ordering.”
Co-founded with former Menulog figureheads Tim Chandler and Gary Munitz, FoodByUs achieved one of the largest Australian capital raises in the first month of 2022, securing $12 million in Series B funding in a time of relative trepidation in the venture capital industry.
This was just over a year after a previous $10 million raise in November 2021, which Lipschitz would later explain was deployed carefully so that when the crunch came there was no need to scale back.
As the service’s presence has gone beyond its origins in the Sydney scene, now with around a quarter of sales in Melbourne, an incipient footprint in Brisbane, and further expansions to come in markets such as Canberra, Geelong, Wollongong and Central Coast, it is in a high-growth phase according to Lipschitz.
He explains part of the company’s success since its 2016 beginnings has been an emphasis on truly listening to customers to better understand their needs and requirements.
“It’s only when you listen and understand a customer’s problem that you can utilise your tech knowledge to create a solution. We were originally a ‘curated marketplace’ of suppliers, but our customers wanted to freely upload their own suppliers so they could access both,” he says.
“We realised that in order to truly be a ‘one-stop-shop’ we needed to have everything available. It took our team about six months to code but when we did launch the ‘add your supplier’ feature our supplier database grew by over 600 per cent almost overnight.”
45. Stephen Cornish (35)
Pentanet (ASX: 5GG)
Pentanet (ASX: 5GG) CEO and founder Stephen Cornish is at pains to differentiate his business from other telcos, and the surge in subscribers over the past year indicates his customers may agree.
Established in 2017, Pentanet is using next-generation technology to establish a high-speed internet network specifically targeting the gaming and esport market.
Internet subscriber numbers surged 34 per cent, revenue by 54 per cent and gross profit by 55 per cent in FY22 through a subscriber base of 200,000 customers accessing the company’s wireless broadband and cloud gaming services across Australia and New Zealand.
Cloud gaming, esport and Cloud.GG offer Pentanet opportunities for high-margin subscriptions and for establishing brand recognition in this niche market.
Pentanet ramped up its business over the past two years after securing an alliance with NVIDIA in January 2021 to offer gamers access to the US mobile technology company’s GeForce NOW cloud-based streaming service.
The company announced in November that since launching the platform in October 2021, the service signed on more than 270,000 members who streamed more than 180 million minutes of gameplay from the cloud.
Pentanet announced in November that it was expanding its NVIDIA agreement in Australia by introducing the next-gen RTX3080 hardware and higher-tier plans to its subscribers. The new agreement gives Pentanet rights to expand the NVIDIA offering to New Zealand and potentially other neighbouring territories.
The RTX 3080 service is set to launch in 2023, with membership giving users access to a dedicated 3080 GPU in the cloud, which provides a significant performance boost over the existing GeForce NOW subscription tier and access to more of the cloud gaming market.
Cornish says the past year has secured Pentanet’s place as ‘a leader in both telecommunications, cloud gaming and esport in Australia’.
“We seized the opportunity to bring new products and technology to market, and now the foundations have been laid for accelerated sustainable growth across our complementary business sectors,” says Cornish, who sold his house to start the business six years ago, driven by his love of gaming and a desire to improve connectivity for the community in Perth.
Pentanet also operates a traditional fixed wireless network in the WA capital, which was upgraded in FY22 to support future infrastructure deployments across neXus and 5G. The neXus system is exclusive to Pentanet and delivers an ‘ultra-high-speed wireless internet connection through the air using an innovative mesh technology’.
The company added nine new towers in FY22 as its Perth network approached capacity.
Pentanet posted revenue of $17 million in FY22 and gross profit of $7 million. The bottom-line loss of $7.9 million is a 42 per cent improvement on the previous year.
46. Abdul Razak (30) and Samira Razak (24)
Abdul and Samira Razak continue to make strides in their ambition to bring better service to the traditional charity-based models in disability services, overcoming workforce shortages to steadily grow Maple Community Services’ footprint and scope around the country over the past 12 months.
Providing independent living and specialty support to people with disabilities, the company has its origins in Western Sydney but has since grown throughout NSW and interstate with operations now in Western Australia, Queensland and Victoria.
After finishing school in 2010, while studying Law and Arts at university Abdul ran his own tutoring company and contracted with businesses working with disadvantaged children, most of whom had disabilities.
It was this experience that opened his eyes to the room for improvement in the sector, so for about a year between 2016 and 2017 he prepared for the launch of his own business.
“During this process, about two months after opening the company, I brought on my sister Samira to join me as a 50-50 partner. She agreed and from there we both dropped out of our studies and went all in,” Abdul explains.
“Maple offers disability and housing services to anyone in Australia registered with the NDIS.
“Maple is one of the most agile, fast paced and innovative companies in the market, and this helped us grow faster than any other provider in the industry.
“Maple now services over 600 clients all over the country and has over 300 employees nationwide.”
Growth has been so rapid that Maple, which found its niche partly by embracing technology, had its software provider warn it was going to pull the plug in 2022, saying “you guys are too big, we can’t actually cater to you anymore”.
This is not the worst problem to have, but it was an expensive one that required a strategic rethink. In response, Maple partnered with a leading global software company and spent almost $1 million developing an ecosystem of digital services including an app and web component.
That was rolled out in the second half of 2022 – the same time the group also created a new vertical in Maple Youth Services.
“This division will focus solely on supporting children in crisis situations. This is completely separate to NDIS and is a separate stream of revenue,” Abdul says.
“We’re expecting this to take Maple as a group to a whole new level and open the door to opportunities outside of the NDIS.”
47. Alexis Soulopoulos (32)
Mad Paws (ASX: MPA)
Australia has gone barking mad for pet services business Mad Paws (ASX: MPA), which is now far more than just a pet sitting bookings platform.
Launched in 2015, Mad Paws’ core offering was established to reinvent how Australians find people to look after their furry family members while travelling.
The platform garnered initial traction by implementing clever growth strategies during its startup phase. This included scoring prominent placement in online publications and on TV with wacky publicity stunts like hosting an Easter party for pets complete with dog-friendly chocolate.
This enabled Soulopoulos to go viral and onboard pet-sitters without needing to deploy considerable capital toward marketing efforts.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and travel came to a halt, Alexis realised the business had to change.
Thankfully for Mad Paws, one of the pandemic effects was a boom in pet ownership; 25 per cent more Australians now own a dog or a cat. To capture this market, Mad Paws tapped investors and debuted on the ASX, giving it more capital to make acquisitions and create an ‘ecosystem’ of holistic pet services.
The Mad Paws group now includes the petsitting platform, pet food subscription service Dinner Bowl, toys and snacks subscription service Waggly, dog beds distributor Sash and veterinary services site Pet Chemist.
These acquisitions have buoyed Mad Paws in a number of respects. Of course, they’ve all contributed to the company’s growth in revenue, but they’re also generating invaluable data points that enhance the services the group is able to offer to pet owners.
“With our ecosystem approach, data becomes so much more important with all of these different businesses,” Soulopoulos explains.
“We know exactly which customer has shopped on one business and another one, is a customer more likely to buy from another business if we recommend it versus another one.
“If we know that their dog has this or that need, and through our food businesses we know that they have allergies, we can really help our customer and this is extremely powerful.”
The company’s next move, backed by a $4 million raise, is to put all of its services under one umbrella and dominate the ‘increasingly more active’ pet services space according to co-founder and CEO Justus Hammer.
“As we reported in our recent December quarterly, our marketplace and e-commerce business verticals are all continuing to grow rapidly from a revenue and customer acquisition perspective, which is giving us scale and improved margins,” he says.
“We also remain on track to be EBITDA positive in mid calendar year 2023.”
48. Matt Anderson (30) and Nic Blair (36)
Backed by a track record of a successful exit from SEO business Search Factory which he sold to Dentsu over the course of 2016 to 2019, in addition to app marketing startup Brus Media, it didn’t take long for Nic Blair to make a mark with his latest venture set up 2021.
Co-founded with Matt Anderson, who had previously worked with Blair as operations manager at Search Factory, Midnight Health has been scaling up with its mix of medication delivery, remote prescription and tailored gut health microbiome services.
In its first year of operation the group secured a $4 million investment from health insurer nib (ASX: NHF), and less than a year later the same investor pumped three times that amount into the startup at a post-money valuation of $48 million.
The funds have been going towards technological improvements, staffing, new product launches and boosting customer growth.
Midnight Health began with Youly, a women’s healthcare brand that not only provides e-prescriptions and the delivery of treatments for thrush and herpes, as well as the contraceptive pill, but was also the country’s first emergency contraception delivery service.
The brand Stagger was then launched with a similar model but focused on issues specific to men’s health, followed by hub.health that offers a telehealth and treatment delivery service for the whole family through its network of 46 Australian doctors, pharmacies and healthcare providers.
Since May last year the company has also been collaborating with biotech company Microba Life Sciences (ASX: MAP) thanks to a three-year agreement to deliver personalised health services to the Australian market.
That translated to the October 2022 launch of precision prebiotics subscription service Vidality.
“Vidality is designed to transform how we understand and improve gut health in Australia," Blair said at the time.
“Every Australian has a diverse and unique microbiome, so rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach, we are now enabling people to understand their unique gut health needs and access a prebiotic supplement that is specifically tailored to them.
“Vidality supports people through a holistic gut health journey that provides personalised analysis and results, educational resources and of course, access to our scientifically-developed, pharmaceutical-grade Precision Prebiotics.”
49. Paul Maric (35) and Alborz Fallah (38)
Having successfully built and sold CarAdvice.com.au for $60 million to Nine Entertainment (ASX: NEC) five years ago, Alborz Fallah, Paul Maric and Anthony Crawford decided to start a new venture after their site was merged with car advice platform Drive.
Since launching CarExpert.com.au in 2020, the website has secured investment from Seven West Media (ASX: SVN), billionaire Laurence Escalante and former Audi Australia exec Nikki Warburton, who joined the company’s board almost four months ago. In December the company also received a "significant" investment from an unnamed Asia-based company with operations in Australia.
Off the back of a recent $5.1 million capital injection, the group is revving up to target dealerships in Western Australia in a bid to bolster its database, marketplace and active monthly user base of 1.7 million-plus people.
“Nine wasn't awfully happy about our departure. I think they were even less satisfied with us starting a new competitor, and then even less satisfied that their main rival – Seven – invested in it,” Fallah explains.
“We took 21 of our staff with us and started CarExpert with a slightly different mission, but obviously in a very similar industry.
“We spent the first 12 months building a massive amount of content and audience and getting the site infrastructure right, then we started adding all the data and transactional elements. We were very conscious of not becoming CarAdvice 2.0.”
Offering users online car reviews, news and sales, CarExpert.com.au also has a product known as Sold Price Report, which gives users real market data to show what others have recently paid for a car they’re after.
Last year saw the group snap up Damon Rielly as its CEO after he previously led ASX-listed iCar before it was sold to Malaysia-based CarSome for more than $200 million in July 2021
The next step? An initial public offering (IPO) in 2024 is planned.
“We’ve learned so many lessons, and everyone that came over brought those lessons with them. It wasn't like we were a new startup - we're a very experienced team of people.”
50. Aden Levin (35) and James Farrell (39)
While rude staff and terrible service would usually destroy a hospitality business, it has proven to be the winning formula for Aden Levin and James Farrell’s most popular restaurant chain – Karen’s Diner.
The themed dining experience has taken the world by storm over the last year, securing 19 locations across Australia, New Zealand, the UK and US and most recently, Indonesia.
“We've just opened in Jakarta with our first non-English speaking Karen’s, which is been an absolute runaway success. It's incredible. We’ll be opening in Bali and Dubai. We're in talks everywhere - from Singapore to Buenos Aires,” Levin says.
“There seems to be a bit of a global demand for rude hospitality. Our aim for the end of this year is to have about 60 Karen’s Diners running globally.”
Karen’s Dinner accounted for 60 per cent of the group’s revenue in 2022, with the latest four of 15 locations rolled out under a franchise model – a decision Levin notes will be the preferred option from now on.
Operating 27 venues worldwide, Viral Ventures runs other immersive events such as bar and escape room hybrid The Wizard’s Den, Alice-in-Wonderland-inspired cocktail lounge The Alice, as well as pop-ups like The Brick Bar.
When the pandemic brought events to a halt in early 2020, the pair also worked on rolling out their own ticketing site and event platform Hidden, which is now used to gather analytics on which markets to tackle next.
“The main thing we've seen is the volume of people purchasing now versus pre-COVID has ballooned. Everyone had money to spend because they couldn't spend it - whether it was being paid to stay home because you've got COVID or whatever it may be,” Levin says.
“There was a lot of people that had excess [to spend], especially in the UK. They were getting paid 80 per cent furlough when they weren't even working.
“People had all this money but weren't able to go to work, so they spend it somewhere. I think experiences and entertainment was definitely an area that people jumped straight back into.”
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